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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Writers@Grinnell: April Dobbins

April Dobbins talked to students about her works and filmmaking. Photo by Reina Shahi

By Kelly Page

On Tuesday, April 24, Grinnell alum and filmmaker April Dobbins ’99 came to campus as part of the Writers@Grinnell series to talk about being an independent filmmaker. She has co-directed the film “Cutter,” which was screened at multiple music festivals, including the Gary International Black Film Festival and the Baltimore International Black Film Festival. She also produced a short film called “Paradise.” The synopsis can be seen on her website: “Joe’s obsession with death heightens when he learns of a strange ritual that repulses his wife.”

She talked about a new project she is working on, titled “Alabamaland,” which chronicles the history of the land that her family lives on, where their ancestors worked as slaves, saying, “documentaries are about walking in the character’s shoes.” Her aim in creating the documentary started with “making a time capsule” of her family, but through the creative process it grew into something more as she began to focus on the women in her life and place herself in the story. She discussed the grueling nature of making documentaries independently, and how many people struggle with the idea that their documentaries may not make money.

She also discussed being a woman on movie sets, saying that many women shy away from being directors because they do not feel comfortable telling other people what to do. She encouraged other women to assert themselves in the role. A student interested in film asked her about whether it was wise to go straight into film school immediately after Grinnell, or if they should try to get life experience first. Dobbins replied by saying that one does not necessarily need to go to film school if they get an entry-level job in the industry and work their way up, but to not to wait too long to go to graduate school, as “life will get in the way … you have the rest of your time to get life experiences.”

For Dobbins, creating movies is difficult, forcing her to spend all of her spare money on her projects and to continue promoting her projects even when it gets hard. However, for her it is a labor of love.

April Dobbins talked to students about her works and filmmaking. Photo by Reina Shahi
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